Lama Michael Conklin is KCC’s Resident Teacher. He became a student of the Very Venerable Kalu Rinpoche in 1974 while living in San Francisco, where he was one of the founding members of the Kagyu Droden Kunchab Dharma Center. From 1986-89, Michael participated in the traditional Kagyu three-year, three-month retreat conducted by Lama Tsang Tsing in Marcola, Oregon, near Eugene. Wholly cloistered for the duration of the retreat, participants were able to practice intensively without distraction or worldly intrusions and were introduced to the most important Vajrayana practices and rituals of the lineage.
Michael’s clarity in presenting the basic Dharma has made him a popular teacher. In addition to his activities as resident lama at KCC, he also teaches courses at Portland Community College on the basics of Buddhism and the Buddhist perspective on death and dying.
In 2001, Bokar Rinpoche renewed his request that Michael be responsible for offering the annual Mahamudra instruction and retreat. The Awakened Mind program, which Bokar Rinpoche initiated in 1993, is a practice regimen designed to introduce Westerners to essential components of the Tibetan Buddhist path on a schedule that fits into Western life.
Associate Teachers — Dora DeCoursey, Bill Spangle, and Julia King Tamang
Bill Spangle and Dora DeCoursey began practicing the Dharma in 1979, during a visit to Ladakh, India. They first started attending KCC in 1980, and are among KCC’s longest-attending members. Both have served on the board of directors, and Bill was President from 1993 to 1997.
In 1998, they completed a one-year retreat under the direction of Lama Michael Conklin and Venerable Bokar Rinpoche. Michael asked Bill and Dora to assist him with teaching in 1999, and they are authorized to teach most of the practices supported at KCC. Currently, Bill and Dora provide instruction on the Ngöndro practices, teach at joint retreats with Michael, provide periodic instruction at the Portland center, and offer individual assistance to practitioners.
Julia King Tamang has been a member of KCC since 1993. She served twice on the KCC board of directors, and was President from 2003-2005. She is a student of Lama Michael Conklin and Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche and has engaged in the Mahamudra Program since 1996. On April 4, 2015, Julia entered KCC’s 2015 Three-Year Retreat.
Erik Fromme, Zopa Herron, Bill Spangle, and Dora DeCoursey
Assistant Teachers — Erik Fromme and Zopa Herron
Erik Fromme started attending KCC in 1995 during his medical internship at OHSU. The first time he came, he met Lama Michael, Bill, Dora, and Kathleen Benz and felt instantly connected. In 1996 he took refuge and attended Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche’s Mahamudra Seminar in Portland. That experience encouraged him to try to integrate his meditation practice with his medical practice, and so in 2001 he completed a Schwartz Fellowship in Pastoral Care at Harvard Medical School. Since 2002 he has been a palliative care physician at Oregon Health & Science University and the Knight Cancer Institute, which provides daily opportunities for practice off the cushion. Erik is available for a small number of interviews each month.
Zopa Herron came to the Dharma in 1993 through KCC. She met Venerable Thubten Chodron in 1994 and has followed her from then on, and for five years lived in the monastic community at Sravasti Abbey in Newport, Washington. In 1999, Zopa took refuge from Lama Michael and the five precepts from Geshe Kalsang Damdul. In 2001, she received bodhisattva vows. She has been fortunate to hear teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Geshe Lhundup Sopa, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Yangsi Rinpoche, Khenpo Lodro Donyo and others. In 2009, Zopa took the eight anagarika precepts for life, as a lay person. Zopa completed KCC’s one year retreat in 2014.
Senior Practitioner - Julie Hurlocker
Julie Hurlocker came to the Dharma in the late 1980s with Shambhala training. She took refuge in the Karma Kagyu tradition in 1990 with Lama Tashi Namgyal and has been a student of Lama Michael Conklin since 1992 and a member of the KCC community since 1993. She began the Mahamudra Program with Bokar Rinpoche in 1996 and took part in the one year retreat at SCOL in 2013/2014. In 2014/2015 she went to India to begin the Yidam program with Khenpo Lodro Donyo Rinpoche. She is grateful to have experienced retreats or teachings with many other wonderful teachers, among them, Thrangu Rinpoche, HH the 17th Karmapa, HH the 14th Dalai Lama, and Alan Wallace.